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The Situation Room

Traditional reporting and online resources update international news.

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01:29:00

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U.s. 27, Us 16, Fbi 16, Malaysia 14, Australia 11, Indonesia 8, France 6, Ntsb 5, Pradaxa 5, Beijing 5, Perth 5, Ukraine 5, Barbara Starr 4, At&t 4, Crimea 4, Asia 4, Quantico 4, Navy 3, Campbell 3, United States 3,
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  CNN    The Situation Room    Traditional reporting and online  
   resources update international news.  

    March 19, 2014
    2:00 - 3:29pm PDT  

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a boeing 727 took off without a flight plan or okay from the tower. u.s. authorities got involved and at one point, they believe a man named benjamin padilla was at the controls. the plane along with everyone else on board was never seen again. hopefully for the sake of those aboard flight 370, there is still an explanation and it will soon be learned. i now turn you over to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." wolf? >> thanks very much. happening now, the breaking news we're following, the mystery of flight 370. malaysia receives new radar data, wu won't say what it shows as investigators pore over the new information, a more urgent plea for help goes out to countries in the region. anguish and agony from the
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families of the passengers. distraught relatives are dragged away by authorities after begging the media for help and the search narrows. new details on why efforts are now focused at the far end of the southern corridor in a remote area of a vast ocean. i'm wolf blitzer. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com we begin with new clues that are emerging right now in the disappearance of malaysia airlines flight 370. a senior u.s. official says a route change, that abrupt turn to the west, appears to have been entered into the airliner's flight system at least 12 minutes before the last voice contact was received from the cockpit. the fbi is now looking at hard drives from the computers of the pilot and the co-pilot, including the pilot's flight simulator hard drive. a malaysian official says simulator data was erased and
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investigators are trying to recover the files and u.s. and australian officials indicate the hunt the now focused on the far end of the southern search corridor, and that could put it more than 1500 miles off the coast of perth, australia. we're standing by with the kind of coverage only cnn can deliver. we begin with our chief national correspondent. >> cnn has learned that the malaysian government has obtained new radar data relevant to tracking the path of flight 370 after it lost communications with the ground. because this data could reveal sensitive military capabilities, malaysia has yet to detail the new data or which country has provided it. it is a broad appeal to all countries along this path to indicate which direction it went and how far. meanwhile, as every day passes without hard information about the plane's fate, there's leading emotions of family members to boil over.
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begging for answers for one more day, today, loved ones of passengers on board flight 370 grew frustrated and apgry. and when the answers didn't come yet again, the disappointment was simply too much for some of them. today, new attention focused on the pilots. the fbi is now reviewing a hard drives from their computers an the captain's flight simulator. malaysian officials say data had been deleted from it weeks before the flight. >> we are in on going conversations and will make available whatever resources, whatever expertise we have. >> the massive search area in
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the southern indian ocean is narrowing significantly. they are now focusing on a much smaller area, roughly the size of france, centered here, 2,000 miles off the australian coast. >> today, the area has been significantly refined. you can see here, the lines that were prepared by the ntsb have been refined somewhat based on more detailed analysis. >> malaysian authorities say they are now getting new radar data after reaching out to every country along the presumed northern and southern flight paths. >> i can confirm that we have received from radar data, but we are not at liberty to release information from other countries. >> u.s. officials tell me one key reason they are increasingly focused on the southern flight path is that the northern route is so well covered by radar and by satellites. though this southern area is
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beco becoming smaller and more refined, it is still huge and 2,000 miles off the aus krtrali coast. still saying it's going to take weeks to search the area. >> still huge when you look at the relativity of the whole area. cnn's getting new information about the flight's initial turn west. what are you learning? >> basically, i think it comes down to the details, when the computer's fly iing the plane, it's more refined and smooth than when the pilot is flying. the data is showing the way the plane directed itself to radar way points was so precise that that follows a plane following a path of what has been entered. had the pilot made that turn in response to something in the cockpit suddenly, it wouldn't have been as refineded a path. so it feeds into this theory that we were reporting first yesterday that this turn was preprogrammed into the flight before that final good night.
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>> for whatever reason, very disturbing. thanks very much. we're also learning more about the reasons why the search for the airliner is narrowing and why the focus is now on that far end of the southern search zone. let's go to barbara starr. what are you picking up over that, barbara? >> australia is searching a vast area, but right now, focus on about 117,000 square miles, big enough, isn't it, off that western coast of perth. the map really tells you everything you need to know about this. how are they coming to this calculation? well, what they've done is with the help of the u.s. ntsb, look at the satellite transmissions, calculated the fuel, the range and how many, most importantly perhaps, how many days this has been going on. that's what leds to the urgency of this. as the days go on, the ocean currents shift everything around every day. based on what they know now,
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calculating all that data from the time they lost contact from the last transmission of the airplane, that's how they come to this box they're looking at right now. but officials are saying every day, the search box is going to change as time goes on and the urgency will probably grow. >> that box still the size of about new mexico. so, does this mean they have effectively given up on the northern route? >> well, technically no, but i have to tell you, since this happened, every u.s. military and intelligence official i've spoken so says they've genuinely believe most likely it is somewhere sadly in the indian ocean and why do they say this? of course, it's because the u.s. has pretty good satellite coverage in asia, china, pakistan, those countries in there because they watch for ballistic missile launches. u.s., the most classified military satellites as far as anybody publicly knows right now, have seen absolutely nothing that indicates a plane is up in asia.
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no country reporting legitimate verified, if you will, radar hits of a plane. just simply no indication that it is up in asia in any of those 11 countries and u.s. officials feel pretty confident as each day goes by, if there had been any information about it being up there, they would have heard it by now. the issue is satellite coverage in the indian ocean. commercial satellites have been moved that way. u.s. satellites, the classified satellites regularly don't cover that area, but they are going back through everything they have. wolf? >> barbara starr at the pentagon, thank you. let's bring in our law enforcement analyst, the former fbi assistant director, tom fuentes along with mark weiss. tom, you think now that they've narrowed the search in the southern area, does that mean you think they're getting closer to actually finding something? >> i don't know, wolf. this is a phrase we've heard about ten times in the last 12 days, we've narrowed the search area.
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i don't know completely what it's based on. seems to be based on a negative that surely, some country would have seen it had it gone north. maybe yes, maybe no. we've seep where thailand and other countries look back ten days later and say, across our radar, i don't know we can rely on just the fact it didn't show up there, or we don't think it did, to say it for sure went this way. also, you could speculate the reason the area is being narrowed is that maybe australia saw that plane and said, okay, it's over here, but don't tell anybody we told you. >> so, the fbi is now looking at the hard drive from the pilot, the co-pilot, as well as the flight simulator the pilot had. >> they're going to look for any type of track that pilot may have put in to the simulator because that would not be a
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normal route to flight that the aircraft would be taking. >> so, they're looking to see if there's anything suspicious that might indicate this pilot or co-pilot, the case of the simulator, that the pilot was rehearsing, if you will. that's the keyword i've heard all day. they're looking for some indication of rehearsal. >> right now, nothing has been found, so certainly you don't want to cast dispersions where they don't belong. they're going to look for that smoking gun piece of information. >> you're a former assistant director of the fbi, yet even if it look like it's going some place sinister, there could be a logical explanation. >> if it's going to the circle they have put on the globe in the indian ocean, there's nothing sinister about going to australia. air malaysia flies to almost every major city in australia already. if he did search going to those location, it may be that he's got an upcoming flight to one of those airports or he's going to
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request being able to fly there if they have him on a regular beijing route, maybe he wants to go to sydney or perth or brisbane. >> you're hearing from your sources that they're pretty confident these fbi experts, that they can retrieve what was deleted on these personal computers as well as on the sim later. >> to a point. they're confident they can retrieve something. they say t like fitting together pieces of a puzzle. and these are teams that that's their job. they've got an expertise in looking on computers for things that people don't want to find on computers, so if you had a team who could pull it off, it would be this team. >> what do you make of the fact that the computer in the cockpit that they had a different flight path that was programmed about 12 minutes before that co-pilot said to ground control, all right, good night? >> i still don't know how that information with that 12 minutes really came from --
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>> it came from law enforcement source who's been briefed. >> okay. my understanding of how that system would work, it wouldn't know that on the ground. that could have been programmed on the ground at kuala lumpur from one of the pilots or somebody getting into the cockpit. i don't know that that system actually would allow that transfer of information back to the -- >> it's likely supposed to go from kuala lumpur to beijing, non-stop, five hour flight. why would someone program in on the ground that it's going to go somewhere else to the west? >> well, that's the point. somebody could have done it. on the ground or even in the air, but i don't know -- >> someone mischievously would go into the cockpit before the pilot and co-pilot checked all the systems? >> no, it would have had to have been after they checked all the systems because you'd get a flight plan from your operations, you'd check that against the computers.
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you've been on commercial flights when you've seen pilots get out of the cockpit and go to the bathroom. go to talk to some of the passengers and people have been in the cockpit. certainly at that point, something could be done. or we've heard before that this has, flights allowed other people into the cockpit. it's possible somebody could have tampered with it at that point. >> what are you hearing? >> you know what's interesting about this, in the investigation, the investigators, the u.s., the malaysians, are using what they never have before. it's partly because you don't have a plane. it's also because planes, devices, everything we do today has more data than before and the coverage of the earth, satellites, radar, wireless communications, ar cars and the engines, these are systems that did not exist five, ten, 15 years ago. also i think relevant, reporting on the nsa story, the nsa is not
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spying here, but it is an example of the society that we live in today, where there's data coming from everything we sit in, ride in, use, talk on in a number of directions at any time an this is helping investigators. >> also, wolf, you want to know what's the bases of the investigation. if they're saying we saw this on the ground, the computer change, that would be one thing, but it seems like they're saying the flight turned so smoothly, it must have been programmed. they couldn't tell you for sure if it went up 43,000 feet, down. it was tat edge of the radar zone, so it wasn't precise enough. suddenly, it's precise enough to know the turn. >> getting new information, stand by, up next, the cnn correspondent ready to go out on a u.s. search flight, but the american plane is refused permission to fly over indonesian air space. i'll have a us navy commander in the region, what is going on. and we've put together a new minute by minute timeline of what happened aboard flight 370.
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welcome back to our continuing coverage. let's take a closer look at this new search area, which apparently is narrowing, yet is still about the size of the state of new mexico. tom foreman is joining us from our virtual studio. >> hi, wolf. it can look as if this is somewhat chaotic when we see how this has changed day-to-day.
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especially when we look at these two arcs, the northern and now, the southern. why are they focusing so much on the southern now? this is the basian theory. they have chosen this place off the coast of australia, because as they have adjusted the probableties, based on all the evidence they have, it started pointing more this direction. talk about what it means to search an area like that because we know they have focus on this area now. we know they have this information to look here, but this is part of what tells us how intense this is. if you were out searching this, it would be a very difficult task because spotting anything on the water is hard. even for train eed searchers. there are glares that come across the water. white caps and other debris that make it difficult to see. also, this, the p8 poseidon.
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this is considered the state-of-the-art right now for submarine hunting in the world. this plane has been sent down to that quadrant, specifically because it can look past all the things we can't see with our eyes. with its radar, it can search thousands of miles in a day looking for any sign of debris, that's why it's in the quadrant and that's what tells us this is important, but i want to make a real point here. even if you find debris on the surface, that's just the beginning because if we were to fly down from that high level down to the water and then below the water, what you wind up with is what could be the actual resting place of this plane if it in fact has been lost in the indian ocean and down there, two miles deep, more in some places, you will find mountains and valleys and all sorts of things
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that make the search even harder once you've narrowed it down to a real place to search. >> thank you. let's bring in two experts to discuss. colleen keller helped with the air france airliner in 2009 and peter golds, a former managing director of the national transportation safety board. colleen, you helped with the search for the air france flight 447. it took five days to find some initial debris, but then another two years to recover the flight data recorder. give us a sense of how daunting this current challenge is. >> well, if you compare it to the air france search, it's much more daunting, wolf. this area is much larger and we still don't have a very good motivation for what happened to the plane. whether it was a hijacking or some kind of mechanical failure. we knew in the air france search that we were looking at a mechanical failure that brought the plane down within four minutes of the last known point.
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here, we don't have that kind of information. if the airplane did go into the water or over land, we don't know how it struck the surface or really anything. we're still searching in what we call a wide area search using wide area search centers. >> the first few days were wasteded basically. they were lookinging in the totally wrong area. it was an oil slick that had developed, that is long disapated and you're not going to find that now. >> absolutely. we ran a wild goose chase during the most critical part of the search and colleen is being a little modest. two years, that was a -- recovery. they did an extraordinary job on finding that plane. as she said, they had a hint of where it was. we have no hint where this plane is. >> and so, colleen, if they really don't, if they're just looking randomly out there with planes and ships and satellites, whatever, give us a little sense of do you believe it's possible
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they may never recover this aircra aircraft? >> well, yesterday, i was saying that, but today, i'm very encouraged we've narrowed the search area down at least to the southern half. we've focused on half of the original search area, so that's an improvement off the bat. we do need more data. we need to bring it down much more before we get any sensors in the water. >> how do you get that data is this. >> well, i keep hoping that somebody's military is going to step forward with some secret information, but as far as i know, there's none to date, but that would be wonderful. if we could get one electronic hit from a cell phone, from an emitter or the plane, a sighting, that would do it. that would nail it down. >> because peter, as you know, there's a lot of suspicious out there, some of the countries in that area, in that region, they don't trust each other, that somebody might be withholding critical information. >> we have the thai government saying, nobody asked. we don't know if there's covert
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activities or station or listening devices. perhaps in the ocean floor. that might have picked up something. we're just hoping the powers at be are going to come clean. >> colleen, if you were involved in this search, what would you be recommending right now? >> we would love to get involved and use the same basian techniques we useded for the air france search. it's very important to be documenting everything you're looking, the time spent, altitude, sensors, weather conditions. this helps us evaluate how effective that search was and reduce the probability that they contain the target and it's not clear that we have all that information being recorded at this point. >> thanks very much. you'll be back, we're standing by to talk to a us navy commander who's in touch with the search area. we'll also dig deeper on today's
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news that fbi experts there, they are now examining the computer hard drive. the software from the pilot's personal flight simulator. plus, back the new information, we're revying our own timeline of the night the flight disappeared and it's raising a glaring question. why didn't malaysia do something as soon as the plane disappeared? are you flo? yes. is this the thing you gave my husband? well, yeah, yes. the "name your price" tool.
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new focus of the missing airliner investigation. the hard drives of the pilot and co-pilot, the fbi is now on the case. >> the pilot's flight simulator is now a key part of this investigation and a top priority according to a law enforcement source. we learned today some data was deleted from that simulator and now, investigators are trying to find out if this was a key clue. cnn has now told u.s. law enforcement officials are examining hard drives belonging to the pilot and first officer of malaysia airlines flight 370.
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in quantico, virginia, they're combing through the hard drives that include software owned by the plane's captain. why? >> some data has been deleted from the simulator and work to retrieve this is ongoing. >> investigators aren't saying what data was deleted or if the captain or someone else deleted it. as one simulator user said, all of us load and delete files in the sim continuously. 777 pilot les abe said he may have felt there wasn't enough space and may have deleted a basic training exercise -- >> or may have been embarrassed. >> but some say it is
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suspicious. the files are tiny and -- >> if they were just in a casual flight just for entertainment or for practice, that's why it would never be saved and there would be no need to delete it. >> a company called pmdg, manufacturer of the software captain shah used in his simulator said he had no relation to them. in an e-mail, they defended shah, saying those who connect his love of flight simulation to the plane's disappearance are engaging in wild conjecture that's insulting to pilots. >> if it was deleted, how do they reconstruct it? >> it's taking a known, good image of that data. because they're familiar with the program, they have an edge. so, they can go in, they can get an idea of the overall structure of that data and what it looks like on the inside of the file. from that point, they can go on to the pilot's hard drive and search on that for the specific
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signatures. >> but jason, he says time elapsed is key. just a couple of days had passed, he said it would be fairly easy to recover that data, but the data was deleted february 3rd, more than a month before the flight disappeared. he said they could still retrieve the material, but the time between the material was taken out and the plane had disappeared, a lot of other data could have smudged that footprint, it could be tougher to find it if it's the month between the time of the lapse and the time the plane disappeared. >> do we know if the pilot tried to protect any of the data that was encrypted, for example? >> a law enforcement source says it's unclear. all of that information could tell them if it was a routine deletion or if someone was trying to cover their tracks. >> thanks very much for that.
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for the first time, the president of the united states is now taking about the missing airliner. just moments ago, he spoke with station kdfw. >> we have put every resource that we have available at the
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disposal of the search process. there's been close cooperation with the malaysian government. and so, not just ntsb, but fbi, you know, all, anybody who typically deals with anything related to our aviation system is available. and so, you know, our thoughts and prayers are with the families, but i want them to be assured that we consider this a top priority and we're going to keep on working. >> let's get some analysis. peter is here. so, the president of the united states, he says this is a top priority. you've been involved in these investigations when you were at the ntsb. when he says that, practically speaking, what does that do to the men and women who are involved in the effort, as well as the foreign countries who have to be out there on the front lines? >> two things. for the americans, everyone takes notice. they say, all right, the president wants us to do this. if they weren't on their tiptoes, they're on it now and
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they want to see something happen. secondly, it's encouraging the malaysians, who have started to share more materials that are critical to the investigation. with the u.s. over the past four days. it says to them, i see that, keep doing it. we're going to throw everything we can at it. >> so, it's an important statement, sort of encouragement from the president. i assume when you were involved in these negotiations, your reports would go to the white house. >> we would keep the white house informed on a regular basis on our foreign investigations. >> so, the president now says this is a top priority and we're going to keep working on it. stand by, today's new revelations as well as the ongoing clarifications from authorities keep changing everyone's understanding of what happened on the night this flight disappeared. renee, you've put together a new timeline incorporating the latest information coming up.
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>> this is day 12 we're talking about here, since flight 370 took off from kuala lumpur and its where abouts are still unknown. this has become a longest search for a plane in recent history, so tonight, we look at the timeline of events we know so far. airport security cameras apparently capture the captain and first officer of flight 370 reporting for duty. march 8th, 12:41 a.m., the red eye flight with 239 people on board depart for beijing. sometime after takeoff, u.s. officials say it appears someone in the cockpit programs an unexpected left turn. 1:07, the last transmission about the health of the plane. 1:19, the last radio transmissi transmission, all right, good night, believed to be from the co-pilot. >> all i could tell, it was a routine operation.
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>> 1:21, the transponder stops. flight 370 disappears from air traffic control radar. the plane flies 100 miles off the coast of the peninsula. next, it turns left, off its scheduled course. 1:28, thai radar detects what's believed to be flight 370, headed towards kuala lumpur, then turning west. loses all contact with the plane. 1:37, next expected transmission never happens. 2:15, malaysian military radar detects what's believed to be the plane hundreds of miles off course. 2:40, authorities say air traffic control alerts malaysia airlines it's lost contact with the plane. 3:45, a code red alert from malaysia airlines.
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6:30, flight 370's expected rival time in beijing. 7:24, six hours after the plane flew off course, malaysia airlines publicly announces flight 370 is missing. 8:11, more than seven hours after takeoff, a satellite makes the last electronic connection with the plane. somewhere along these two arcs, a sign the plane was still in tact with power on. after the airline was told its plane was missing, it waited another four and a half hours before it told the public. the airline says it first checked every communication possible. that meant contacting other air traffic controllers and aircraft fl flying in the area to make sure they hadn't made contact with this aircraft. they wanted to make sure it was tr truly missing. >> was that the wise, correct steps that the malaysian government and malaysian
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airlines took? plane goes missing and you wait four and a half hours before you alert people there's a plane missing? >> there's a moment of absolute disbelief. this can't be happening. there must be some mistake. and then it went on for four and a half hours. >> they would call the cockpit and they get no answer and so, they must be freaking out. >> they are. but they're trying every other option other than the dreaded, we've had an accident, or the plane is gone. they waited too long. there's no question. >> and did they alert others, vietnam, singapore, china, other countries that may have been in that flight path, hey, we got a plane that's missing, help us? >> they undoubtedly called them, what did you see, i'm not sure it was the greatest response. they said, no, we never picked it up. >> pretty shocking. >> it is and i'm just wondering in your experience, in the united states, had that happened
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here, what do you think tspan o time would have been? >> minutes. >> what would have happened within minutes? >> there would have been calls going on. when a plane goes off, they get very nervous, very quickly. particularly because of 9/11. and they start procedures, they start trying to reach that plane. they reach other planes nearby. you can hear it on the tower calls from twa flight 800. there were three or four planes that were immediately calling in. they were reaching out to other aircraft, so it would be minutes. >> tell other pilots maybe flying along that route, have you seen anything, have you seen this plane? there's a plane missing. would you scramble military jets to send them up in the sky? >> only if they had a place to go. if the plane was flying and did not ident, you would do that. but you would certainly contact other planes, say try to reach out to them. maybe they're communications to
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the controller is out, try aircraft to aircraft communications. they would try everything. >> so, in your mind, you drop the ball as far as what we know right now, air traffic would you say or -- >> i think clearly, you start with air traffic control. >> malaysian air traffic control. >> it's their responsibility to track the aircraft and when it goes off the screen, it's their responsibility to raise the alarm immediately. >> all right, guys, stand by. coming up, a one-hour special edition of "the situation room." we're getting new information about how flight 370's guidance computer was reprogrammed. much more right after this. check it out. i can't believe your mom has a mom cave! today i have new campbell's chunky spicy chicken quesadilla soup. she gives me chunky before every game. i'm very souperstitious. haha, that's a good one! haha! [ male announcer ] campbell's chunky soup. it fills you up right. [ male announcer ] campbell's chunky soup.
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as the hunt for the missing airliner focuses in on the southern indian ocean, we're learning that aus search plane has been unable to complete its mission. atika shubert was set to fly on the airplane. she explains what happens. >> reporter: as you can see the plane is all set to go but it's been delayed for hours. a big frustration for the crew because they don't have clearance to fly over indonesia to begin their search. while they wait for clearance t the crew goes over the plan. the p 3-orion was originally meant to hunt for submarines. we've already done five missions so far. can you run us through what you do with each mission? >> i run the radar, the meds
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system and the camera. the radar is a primary sensor for search. anything large in the water will show up on my radar. i'll take the camera, zoom in on it and make sure that it's nothing of interest. but if it's something that might be of interest, then we'll drop down low and use observers, the flight station and our eyes just to make sure that it's nothing that could be, you know, survivor wreckage or anything like that. >> atika shubert reporting. let's bring in the former assistant fbi director. pretty shocking that indonesia wouldn't let this u.s. plane -- they had to cancel the whole flight. the crew members, the plane, the p-3. they wasted a whole day they could have been searching. indonesia wouldn't let this plane fly through its air space. how do you explain that? >> can't, wolf. seems outrageous to me also. we don't know what channels they asked for or if it got stuck in the midlevel of their
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bureaucracy. but you would think that would be something that the ambassador could straighten out very quickly with the highest levels of their government and defense ministry and say what are you doing and get that resolved. only indonesia can explain their decision. >> this is really an outrage. we'll make sure it doesn't happen again. we'll get back to our coverage of flight 370 in just a moment. but first another urgent story we're monitoring. crimea stands on the brink of a potentially bloody conflict. armed russian supporters stormed ukraine's naval headquarters and kidnapped ukraine's navy chief. ukraine's acting president demanded his return warning ukraine would take action. the siege comes one day after a ukrainian soldier was killed, another wounded. let's go to ivan watson. he's joining us from kiev. this looks ominous right now. >> it does. i mean, what we see is a pattern now developing on the crimean
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peninsula, a day after the russians declared they were annexing this piece of ukrainian territory where these troops without insignia and groups of pro-russian militia members take over ukrainian military bases. it's happened a couple times now. as you mentioned yun ukrainian soldier killed yesterday with a gunshot that the russian military has denied came from their direction. the ukrainian government is trying to put up its tough stand. it has announced that it is going to impose visa restrict n restrictions on its neighbor russia, on its citizens crossing the border. it has announced that it is going to ask the united nations to declare crimea a demilitarized zone which would allow it to then pull its troops, thousands of troops out of crimea, but the fact of the matter is very quickly russia's allies on the ground in crimea are establishing facts on the ground. they're pushing out the ukrainian troops base by base
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and so far the ukrainian troops do not seem to be firing back. wolf? >> what are the chances that serious conflict actually could break out between ukraine and russia? >> well, that's a really important question right now. the ukrainian government has announced its put its military on combat readiness. it has announced partial mobilization of its military. it's calling up reservists. it's recruiting people. we've been to recruiting centers. young men, older men lining up saying they want to come up and defend their country, they're signing up by the hundreds every day we're being told. and the ukrainians are really preparing their border defenses as well. the idea of a conflict erupting between these two nations is hard to imagine. it's like canada fighting the u.s. these are two countries with the same languages, but it does seem
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like ukraine is getting pushed into a situation where it feels like it will have no choice but to defend itself, wolf. >> ivan watson in kiev, all right, thank you. coming up a one-hour special edition of "the situation room." we're following all of today's new developments in the mystery surrounding flight 370 including new information about the change in the airliner's flight path.
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you're in "the situation room." in just the last few hours we've learned of some significant new developments in the search for malaysia flight 370. a federal official has just told cnn new clues suggest the dramatic route change that sent the plane heading west toward the indian ocean may have been programmed into the plane's computer to be executed automatically. also, malaysian officials now say they've received new radar data from another country, but they won't reveal who provided the data or what they show. and the fbi is now looking at the flight simulator seizeded from the pilot's home. experts are trying to recover some deleted files that could potentially contain some critical clues. our correspondents and analysts are working all angle of this story using cnn's unparalleled global resources. let's start with cnn pentagon correspondent barbara starr. she has breaking news on the
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search for this flight. what are you hearing over there, barbara? >> reporter: look, wolf, there's growing worry behind the scenes that the world may be running out of time to find this airliner. every day brings everything closer to that 30-day limit before the recorders stop transmitting. the australians have now narrowed down some of the search area, but there is still a lot of water to cover. the u.s. believes malaysia airlines flight 370 most likely fell somewhere within 230,000 square miles of water off australia. based on the latest technical analysis, the immediate search is zeroing in here. a u.s. navy p-8 surveillance aircraft searched 1500 miles west of perth. there are now 26 countries, 60 ships and 50 aircraft joining the hunt under australian coordination. commercial satellites are also scouring the ocean.
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>> the shear size of the search area posing a huge challenge. >> reporter: raising the question if the plane will ever be found. >> i would lean more towards the if we find debris can we find enough debris to really ascertain precisely where the aircraft wreckage is if it is on the bottom of the ocean. it really in my mind is an if situation. >> reporter: the search is based on radar and other data calculated by the u.s. national transportation safety board, the faa, the malaysians and other experts. the starting point? transmissions from the airliner. >> those transmissions were detected by a communications satellite over the indian ocean, and with the time of those communications and the distance, they can't plot an exact position for each one, but sequentially they can built up into a possible route that the aircraft took. >> reporter: but the data is now changing every day.
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>> the search area is here based on the last one of those reports. what would likely happen to the aircraft after that. and it has then been moved to account for water movement and weather. >> reporter: the malaysians hinting they may have additional clues. >> i can confirm that we have received some radar data, but we are not at liberty to release information from other countries. >> reporter: and what about that northern sector, those 11 countries in asia? well a search still goes on there, but no verified reports of any aircraft crash or landing. so as the days go on, at least u.s. officials continue to believe that the flight is somewhere in the indian ocean. wolf? >> barbara starr at the pentagon, thank you. i want to go to commander william marx, aboard the "uss blue ridge" command ship.
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we've been checking in with you every day. any luck today? any closer to finding this plane? >> yesterday we had another flight out of perth. this one went to the west. once again, no -- nothing associated with wreckage or debris. the ranges are increasing. so in one aspect, that's a positive that we're getting out there more and more, but it's still a challenge. even with the ranges, so what you have to realize is when you're flying these p-8s and p-3s, they're flying a straight line then once out there you have to calculate the time and come back. so if they're flying at their max range which is well over a thousand miles. we're talking 1200, 1500 miles.
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once they get there, they have a smaller amount of on station time, so then they have to come back. even though we can get out to these ranges with these various aircraft, the search time out there is pretty short. so huge area, still a challenge, but we are getting pretty far out there. >> here's a disturbing development today, commander, that p-3 that was supposed to leave kuala lumpur and fly out there, it stayed on the ground, was canceled. that operation was scrubbed today because indonesia refused to allow this u.s. plane authority, permission to fly over, through its air space. how is that possible? >> the report i've seen, it was a difficult situation. i can't get into any of the discussions on the ground. i wasn't personally there, but from what i understand, we're looking at it. and this is an international effort. it's not just one country.
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it's not the united states alone, it's not indonesia alone. we're looking at it. i can't really give you any details on what happened on the ground there, but i'm confident we're going to be flying if not today than very soon up in the northern sector. >> because that's pretty outrageous when you think about it. the search is desperate, every day is desperate out there. could be locating something, that p-3, that orion plane just wasting an entire day there on the ground because indonesia says it can't fly through its air space. that's pretty outrageous, i must say. yesterday you suggested you're looking at the possibility of increasing your aerial assets in the region, bringing more planes in. have you made a decision on that front? >> right now we're working with all of our international partners. australia has a number of p-3s, india has 3-ps.
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right now what we're doing is looking at this international coalition and looking at our assets. we haven't made a decision yet. that's something to look at for the future. >> what about submarines? are you willing to tell us whether any sub marines are being brought into this search? >> great question. i actually get asked that a lot based on, one, could the aircraft have sunk and the other is the black box. if it's pinging below the surface. right now movement of submari submarines, i can't tell you where submarines are and i can't tell you if we're going to move them there. we have a number of submarines in the seventh fleet. and once again seventh fleet stretches from north of japan all the way south to australia. there are submarines on assignment through all that
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area. so the movement of submarines is a very sensitive issue. i can't discuss it at this point. >> i know, the policy is the u.s. navy never discussing submarines, where they are, what they're doing. let's talk about this more restricted limited air space, the space in the indian ocean you're now looking at the size of the continental united states now about the size of the state of new mexico. should we conclude from that that you're making progress and narrowing in the possibility where this plane might be? >> well, every time we fly we cover a pretty big chunk of area. so the p-3, as it flies out, it will fly typically at about 5,000 feet or so and the radar looking down at the surface covers an area of each side 10 to 20 miles. so you're getting a large swath of water space just as it flies out. then once again depending on how
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far it is, when it gets there, it will have some on-station time left. and that on-station time is where it can do a pattern search going back and forth and recover that box or a chunk of water. so it is encouraging. we're getting some pretty good ranges out there. i'm encouraging that we're now covering the southern sector which at first it wasn't covered very well by assets. so you know every day that goes by and we cover another 15,000 square miles, it's a positive. >> commander, good luck to you. we'll check back with you as we have every day. commander william marks. he's aboard the ship in the pacific. our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto is watching what's going on. we're told the plane's route may have changed, may have changed
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because it was preprommed into the flight management system. what are you learned? >> this new information indicates that when this plane took the familiar turn to the west, it followed two geographic way points that planes use to navigate their route, but it followeded them so precisely, it would indicate that the plane was on auto pilot under the control of the computers rather than the pilot because the pilot would make less exacting moves than the computer would. this corroborates the idea that this turn was programmed, premeditated as opposed to a sudden reaction to some event in the cockpit of the plane. >> what are you finding out about the new radar data that the ma'am asi malas asians rece >> they did say they received new information today. we already know that thailand has provided its information. malaysia itself has talked about how the plane passed three of its own radar search areas. we know another country is providing its data.
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in addition to pakistan and india saying that their radar showed nothing of interest passing through the area at the time. what that is giving us, a further sense that this northern area, you have a lot of radar coverage here, satellite coverage in the sky. this is what u.s. officials are telling me. if they've not found a sign of the plane to this point amid all that radar and satellite coverage, this is why more and more they're focusing on this area here, that smaller and smaller search area that barbara is describing in part because the coverage is up here and getting better. >> come over to the table here. let's continue the conversation. we have a panel of experts joining us. michael schmidt is here from "the new york times." our avs analyst, the former nstb managing director peter gold is with us and former fbi assistant director tom fuentes. how hard to go through the hard
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drives, to go through the flight simulator that the pilot had in the home and go through the hard drives and find out if anything suspicious is there? >> it will depend on how the files were deleted and whether the files were overwritten after they were deleted. people think when they delete a computer file that it's gone, it's erased off the hard drive. it really is not. first letter of the name might be taken off so that you can't locate it. when you ask your computer how much memory i have, it would tell you that it's all the memory including those files that have been deleted. when you save the next file, it may write over a file you previously deleted or corrupt a previously deleted file. that would make it more difficult. kind of like a gps system, you have 20 previous destinations, when you put in the 21st, it erases the first, when you put in 22, it erases the second because there's only so much date that that can be held.
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if you reformat the hard drive what the forensic cyber people refer to as nuking it, it wipes everything off, you would have to reinstall the operating systems, the software from the start. >> president obama today for the first time since this plane went missing what about almost two weeks ago, he spoke out, he was interviewed by kdfw and he said this. >> we have put every resource that we have available at the disposal of the search process. there's been close cooperation with the malaysian government and so not just ntsb but fbi, you know, anybody who typically deals with anything related to our aviation system is available. so our thoughts and prayers are with the families but i want them to be assured that we consider this a top priority and we're going to keep working it.
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>> that's the president. michael schmidt of "the new york times," you've been doing serious reporting on this since the beginning of this mystery, since the beginning of this search. i take it everyone in the u.s. government who deals with aviation, as the president said, this is priority number one. >> yeah, we were actually seeing something interesting today about what happened over the weekend, when they sat down with the malaysian prime minister. they basically said, hey, you are looking in the wrong area. you need to be looking here. this is why we think this. within hours the malaysian prime minister said we're going to look elsewhere. this was sort of the first example of the u.s. saying, hey, let us help you here a little bit. now we see this development with the fbi today that the malaysians seem to be sort of coming along. secretary of defense chuck hagel called his counterpart yesterday and said, hey, we think you should have a little more transparency on this. it's taken a long time but the
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u.s. has seen some things that make it feel a little bit better but obviously there's no sign of anything. >> as you well know there was a lot of waste in the first several days of this. >> the first few days were really pitiful. i mean, we were looking in the wrong direction, there was no coordination. i think this is good news. the last three or four days appears to be more focused. the president's remarks will keep the americans focused but also lets the malaysians know that the resources are there. use them. >> still pretty shocking to me and i'm sure it is to you that indonesia, a neighbor over there, would not allow this u.s. aircraft to fly through its air space to search in the indian ocean for this plane? >> it does show, though, the sensitivities in that region. we talked about that a bit this week. you've got a lot of capabilities there that these countries don't want to reveal. that's played out with the radar data. yes, another country shared radar data in the last 24 hours but why not the first 24 hours? that's the kind of thing that's
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been slow going and these road blocks certainly don't help. interesting to hear the president say the u.s. is offering all available resources because listening in to commander marks, he tended to acknowledge something that they tend not to acknowledge, that there are submarines involved in the search. there are sub ma remarines runn around under the ocean. but they're helping under the water and over the water with planes as well. >> they feel like they're making progress. they see at least a little glimmer of light at the end of this mystery? >> no, i don't think so. they're focused on the pilots and the investigation has a focus that it didn't have a week ago. but -- and they have these computers where they think they may get some raanswer, but beyo that they're narrowing in the ocean and looking at a hard drive. i don't know anything more than i did just a few days ago. we do know when it flew to the left that it was preprogrammed
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and it was when they said good night, but what does that mean? we still don't know. >> a lot of questions we don't know. so frustrating. remember 239 people were aboard that plane. the families are going through agony. we'll have much more on this part of the story coming up. stand by. copies from the hard drive of the in-home flight simulator. can the experts recover the deleted files? the wait is too much for the families of some passengers. we'll show you some extremely emotional scenes. so our business can be on at&t's network for $175 a month? yup. all 5 of you for $175. our clients need a lot of attention. there's unlimited talk and text. we're working deals all day. you get 10 gigabytes of data to share. what about expansion potential? add a line, anytime, for $15 a month. low dues, great terms. let's close!
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this note for our north american viewers, "crossfire" won't be seen tonight so we can bring you more on the mystery of flight 370. the search for clues is unfolding right now not far from where we are in washington, d.c., in quantico, virginia. that's where fbi experts are looking at data from the flight simulator that malaysian officials found in the pilot's home. pamela brown is working this part of the story for us. you're learning fascinating new details. >> reporter: i just spoke with a u.s. official involved with the investigation who says figuring out what's on the simulator's hard drive is a top priority. it's being handled with a great deal of urgency because right now it's the biggest stroke of evidence we have right now. they're trying to rebuild the pieces of data that were deleted more than a month ago according to malaysian officials. sources say fbi agents are
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already combing through the hard drive from the flight simulator inside the home of captain zaharie ak med shah. it confirms that files have been deleted. >> they are oftentimes able to retrieve files that appear to have been deleted but actually weren't. there are artifacts of those files that are left on the harddrive. >> reporter: while experts in quantico, virginia, are trying to retrieve missing files from that hard drive they're looking at how the data was deleting. >> if you were just deleting files off the hard drive to provide more room, you'd delete it once. you wouldn't go through the extra effort to completely destroy the file and make it unretreevlable. >> reporter: they are baffled because they let that computer in the pilot's house for more than a week before retrieving it. only some of the data was deleted and there's no indication that the pilot was
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trying to cover his tracks. >> i would like to take this opportunity to state that the pilots and the passengers and the crew remain innocent until proven otherwise. >> reporter: the most important piece of evidence is yet to be found, the plane itself. >> you have to look at the totality of the evidence. it's just not there right now. the most important piece will be when you find the physical structure. that will demonstrate whether it was mechanical failure or intentional act. you will start to backtrack whether it's hijacking, pilot action or terrorism. >> while there are experts with sophisticated technology looking at the hard drive in quantico right now, it's a complicated multilayered process. it could take some time until we have a complete picture of what's on the hard drive. as one of my sources with the investigation put it, it could end up being an insignificant detail in the process.
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we just don't know right now. >> let's bring in our law enforcement analyst into this investigation. there could be major developments discovered on the hard drives but as pam says, there might be nothing. >> most of the people i talked to, wolf, are really leaning toward probably not a lot. because if he had put in destinations that are somewhat suspicious and exotic, we know he used that simulator for recreation. it might have been just for the heck of it. there ar lot of destinations all over australia, major cities of china, that the malaysian airlines flies to. as a senior captain he could be getting ready to change routes and this week it was beijing and next week it might be sydney, australia or tokyo or some other place. you just don't know. and additionally, not only the major cities they fly to, but when they file the international flight plan, they have to designate alternate cities that may not be where they fly to
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ever -- >> but let's say they discover he deleted some simulation that he had to go to somalia or pakistan, not the regular routes that malaysia airlines nice? would that presumably be some sort of rehearsal? that's the suspicion out there. >> could be a rehearsal that's where he was going to take the plane and it's completely sinister. could be he wanted to see what's it like to go there, what's the air space like, what's the mountains like around that? you just don't know and you still won't know. you'll have to read his mind as to why he wanted to put those destinations in and practice it. >> pamela, i assume fbi source you're talking to, they're happy -- it might be late but they're glad the malaysians are sharing this data. >> as one of my sources put it we're in a dramatically different posture with the malaysians than we were at the beginning of this investigation.
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but still the malaysians have not put in a formal request with the state department to send over an fbi team to malaysia to help with this investigation. so they're still limited in what they can do but this is certainly progress that they're able to analyze the hard drive. >> should have done this from the beginning, but you live and learn. pamela brown, tom fuentes, thanks to you as well. heartbreaking scenes in kuala lumpur where some passengers are enduring an excruciating wait for any information about the plane's fate. today some just couldn't take it any longer and their emotions boiled over. [ speaking foreign language ]

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